Foie Gras with Honey and Balsamic Reduction

The majority of Thursday night was spent writing lyrics and finishing (3!) songs.  What does a hungry, world-renowned recording artist do when the songs are done and the belly is growling its own tune?  Make foie gras, of course.

I cut a block of foie gras in three equal slices, fried it until brown in a hot pan, laid it on warm wheat toast and then spooned a reduction of Balsamic vinegar, honey and salt and pepper over the top.  A meal fit for a rock star.  Should have eaten it in my limo.

A Perfect Day in San Sebastian – Part 1

Sundays in Spain are pretty hard to beat.  One can choose church in the morning or, if you were like us, opt to let your 4 year old and 8 month old sleep in after a typically late Spanish Saturday night.  The majority of the morning was rainy and gray so we hunkered down until around 11:00 as the clouds drifted away leaving a blue sky and gleaming cobblestone streets.

Stop 1: Churros

Mrs. NH and Little NH were determined to start their final day in Spain with the classic churros con chocolate.  Considering our late start, we had to travel to the “parte vieja” to find a restaurant offering the tasty breakfast.  The one we found seems to offer delectable churros 24/7.  With breakfast out of the way, it was time to begin on the rest of the culinary day out.

Stop 2: Basque Lessons

I have a pretty good conversational grasp of Spanish.  In the preceding week, I hadn’t missed a lick of conversation with any Spaniard.  However, in La Cepa I was fairly lost.  To this day, I’m not sure if the first conversation I had with the man behind the counter was in heavily accented Spanish or Basque.  Yes, I muddled through and got a plate of delicious pinchos, but I was left stuttering as if it was my first day speaking Spanish.  Confused, I brought the pinchos, sangria and zumo de manzana back to the family; the fellow behind the counter winked and gave me a small brochure with English, Spanish, Basque, Catalan, Dutch and other translations of common phrases and words.  “Ah, ha!” I thought.  “When in País Vasco…”

We gobbled up the pinchos and finished our sangria.  Having studied my translations, I was ready to make my next order as a local.  A Basque local.  “Bat sangria!” I hollered to my ostensible new professor.  He smiled and winked, “Eh, sangria bat! Pero gracias!”  It was a correction, and a good natured ‘thanks for trying.’  It was also my first word in a new language.  No one will ever confuse me for a linguist!

Stop 3: ¡Foie!

San Sebastian is Basque country and that means there is a good mix of French influence in this region.  Considering my weakness for foie gras, it was also a culinary jackpot.  We pulled up napping Little NH2’s stroller outside of Munto Jatetxea and I went in to place the orders in the midst of a bustling Sunday crowd.  I ordered stuffed peppers, out-0f-this-world croquetas for Little NH, and the aforementioned foie.  Ordering the foie gras was almost as fun as eating it.  I relayed my order in Spanish to the sprightly girl behind the counter and she repeated it with incredible vigor over her shoulder to the open door that contained the kitchen.  Seeing my reaction and smile at the power of her voice, she filled a caña and a clara and handed to me with a wide grin.  I. Love. Spain.

Stop 4: Plaza de la Lasta and the Waterfront

Fat and happy from several tapas we decided to take a break from eating and stretch our legs for a short walk to the waterfront.  The sun was now shining brightly and the town of San Sebastian seemed to be cast in Technicolor.  We sat on the pier for an hour, digesting and soaking up the sun while Little NH practiced her Spanish on a group of boys wrestling with a fishing pole twice their combined height.  Approaching them, she yelled, “¡Hola!”  They all gave her a disinterested look and went back to untangling their line.  Realizing that it won’t always be that way, I laughed and began plotting the rest of the day in my mind.  Across the way, a string of seaside restaurants beckoned.  Am I ever not hungry in Spain?

Continue to Part 2.

Homemade Flammkuchen / Tart Flambée Recipe

Everybody that has ever visited this site knows that Mrs. NH and I are absolutely bonkers about Flammkuchen.  Well, last Saturday we had some foie gras that needed a home and a boatload of Flammkuchen toppings (recently purchased in Munich) that also needed to be used.  That, combined with friends that like to eat almost as much as we do, made the perfect impromptu party.  It also helped that the friends in question came with a nice Swiss Pinot Noir.

So, there we were.  A Saturday night after trick-or-treating, with a new recipe in hand and people in the house.  We had to get it right.  As far as I can tell we did.  It takes some work but was worth every second.  We made four pizzas for five adults and they disappeared – even with foie gras and other appetizers.  I guess we worked up quite an appetite (and thirst!) keeping up with the kids on their quest for candy.

The dough is a staple, introduced to me by Scampwalker.  However, we came up with the method for perfection on the spot.  We made the dough, flattened it and then grilled it lightly on both sides.  After that, we brought it in the house, put it on a heavily cornmealed pizza paddle, dressed it and then popped it on a pizza stone in a very hot oven.  The results were nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Awe inspiring because the turned out perfectly and awe-inspiring because we had never done them before.  In fact, I was so awe-struck that I didn’t remember to take any pictures.  Use your imagination.  [UPDATE: That’s a photo from batch a couple weeks later…]

For the Dough:

1 pkg dry yeast (or about a teaspoon of active cake yeast)
1 tsp sugar
2/3 cup warm water
1 2/3 cups flour (all-purpose or half and half with whole wheat)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

Mix yeast & water to proof for 10 minutes.

Put metal blade in food processor, pour in flour and salt, and turn on machine. Pour yeast through tube and process for 45 seconds. Add oil and process another minute. Dough should ball up… if not, add a bit of flour until it does.

Let it rise for an hour in a ball (covered in a greased bowl), then cut in two to make two 10-inch pizzas, and let rise again (15 minutes or so is usually enough.  Grill the crust until golden with grill marks on each side.  Then, take of the grill and bring it in to be topped and finished in the oven.

For the Topping:

2 cups crème fraiche
2 cups chopped ham
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
ground black pepper

Sauté your onions in olive oil until translucent.  Then add the ham and pepper.  Spread the crème fraiche on the crust, then sprinkle it with the cooked onion and ham mixture all the way out to the edges.  Put on a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven until crème fraiche begins to bubble.  Slice in wedges and enjoy!

Truffle Linguine

We had a friend stay for dinner last night and decided to put some more truffles to use.  This time, we whipped out the hand-crank pasta maker and made some fresh linguine.  Of course, man cannot live by pasta alone so we did starters of prosciutto wrapped bread sticks dipped in truffle oil and foie gras on wheat toast with a balsamic-honey reduction.  I got some great shots of the production phase but by the time the meal hit the plate the time for photography was long past.  Having a lightly chilled Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico waiting to pour and a steaming plate of fresh linguine with truffle cream sauce proved too much to withstand for this blogger and the results are only a tasty memory.

It was an incredible meal spent with a great friend.  It’s actually fun to have someone else there to confirm our brilliance in the kitchen for a change!